Can Twitter be Used to Assess Student Learning?

by Niki Messmore

Tweeting. Is it unprofessional? Is it possible to glean student learning outcomes from social media?

This thought has been on my mind since attending ACPA and realizing that some of my graduate student colleagues at other institutions had been informed by faculty that tweeting is ‘unprofessional’ and it was recommended that they not tweet at the conference. Ironically, ACPA’s 2014 Convention’s theme was ‘Reinvention’, with technology and social media integrated within the entire event.

Last year I wrote “Promoting Live Tweeting as an Educational Tool“. I promise this isn’t a ‘retweet’ of the topic but it can be considered a follow-up. Recently when I broached the topic of Twitter and professionalism online some of my student affairs colleagues had a lot to say on the subject.

Courtney Rousseau is a current graduate student in my cohort at Indiana University and full-time employee at Butler University as the Student Employee Coordinator. She experienced resistance in the classroom to using Twitter in one class due to the concept that using social media in the classroom only distracts from learning rather than contributes to learning. In order to demonstrate that Twitter can be used as a tool to assess student learning, Courtney live tweeted class sessions and created a Storify of her tweets. The documentation of these tweets resulted in a conversation with Courtney’s professor on the opportunity to assess student learning outcomes using social media.

Consider this: As an instructor or program presenter, wouldn’t it be nice to see what students found relevant about a class or event in a real time format? If a hashtag is constructed and students are comfortable with tweeting, tweets could be collected and coded in order to identify key takeaways. Since this assessment model is continuous and takes place in real time, teaching and learning could be restructured to best meet student learning needs throughout the course. However, it must be noted that students are not digital natives – prior to enacting this teaching tool there should be an orientation on how to use Twitter logistically (i.e., what does it mean to make an account and live tweet) and professionally (how does one conduct oneself in a pubic online sphere).

Assessment models are beginning to take notice of using social media as a tool to gauge outcomes and more scholarship is being developed. As the field continues to evolve, I’m curious: Who else is using social media to assess student learning and what capacity are you using it in? Please chime in via the comment section or send a tweet to @NikiMessmore!

Can Twitter be Used to Assess Student Learning?

How I Work – Josie Ahlquist

With a hefty nod to the folks at Lifehacker.org for the idea and questions, we’ve decided to share a little bit about how the bloggers at SA Women Talk Tech work.

By Josie Ahlquist

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Current Gig: California Lutheran University Doctoral Candidate and College of Education Graduate Assistant.  Epic Wife, Animal Rescue Momma and Blogger.
  • One word that best describes how you work: Flow
  • Current mobile device: iPhone 5, Tablet: iPad 2
  • Current computer:  Macbook Pro

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why? 

There are three areas I will highlight with tools I can’t live without, including school/work, blogging and all others fun areas of my life.  But there is one app in particular if for some reason disappeared tomorrow I may cry.  No seriously.  Because Evernote, premium version is my jam.

From recording my research interviews, dreaming about the future, writing blog posts to creating lists.  It syncs with all my devices, so on the go or at home I am up to date.  I just can’t say enough good things about Evernote, or my addiction with its’ ability to help me stay organized, efficient and on point.

  • School/Work: As a (recent) Doctoral Candidate, using technology tools to keep me on track are crucial.  Evernote is on this list, but Dropbox has also been extremely crucial.  No more days of frantically looking for my USB drive that has my paper on it.  Kindle is also key for textbooks and relevant social media books that I can quickly reference to through past highlights.  Google+ hangouts have also proved extremely beneficial to connect with my colleagues across the country doing similar social media in higher education research, but also to use for research interviews.  Finally, Pandora has been a great resources and companion to keep my ears and writing soul.
  • Blogging: I have been blogging consistently for 15 months.  Right away I jumped onto wordpress.com to serve as my blogging source; I love the ease formatting as well as endless options in customizing themes and widgets.  As my blogging expands, I will probably move over to wordpress.org, which also for even further customization.  Along with Evernote, Scoop It has provided a great content curator for me.  Also, I use a website called http://www.123rf.com/ where I buy credits to use photos on my blog site.
  •  Personal: Fitness and the pursuit of happiness are cornerstones to my life.  Because of this, I have apps that I use almost daily.  The first of these is MyFitnessPal which helps me track calories as well as exercise and overall health.  It has been great to apply a level of awareness to my daily activity, especially since I sit so much as doctoral student.  I joke the reason I got a dog was to get out the house more, but really having animals in my house adds much more happy days into my life.  Because of this, I find myself using the website and app called BringFido to help provide us help in finding restaurants, hotels and other things to do wherever we are that are dog-friendly.  Finally, I will admit I am an Instagram junkie.  I have always loved taking photos, so it really wasn’t a surprise that I would use it a lot.  Recently I have added reflection to my posts, completing a movement asking if you can be happy for 100 days, called #100happydays found at http://100happydays.com.

My workflow is like this: 

  • I wake up nearly every day at 8am on the dot, thanks to a furry companion that refuses to sleep in.  We walk for about 15 minutes then I load up on my favorite tea and cereal.  I could live on those two staples alone.  My Fitness Pal app would tell me I should do otherwise.
  • After feeding the dog, I look first at my Google Alerts that I have set up for daily delivery.  These are automatic emails I receive from Google searches that look for the following terms like “Digital Education or Social Media in Higher Education” and especially my name.  While I eat, I review articles that I feel are shareable.  Many times I tweet these out right away, unless there are a large number, then I will use the website Buffer to send them out throughout the day.
  • After one hour of reading, reviewing/updating to-do lists and responding to emails I head off to exercise, either running, yoga, lifting or spinning.  I realize this schedule wouldn’t work for most people that are at work during the day, but due to working and going to school from home, a mid-morning workout fits for me.  I love knowing there rest of the day my workout is already complete and I use the energy to aggressively move into my to-do list.
  • My workday truly begins around lunchtime.  I work in chunks of two-hour blocks, physically moving my body and location of work after each.  In those breaks I may run a quick errand, go to the dog park or heck maybe a siesta!
  • I minimize social media and email inboxes out of view, especially when I need to be purely writing.  I first start in my office, then move to the kitchen table and usually end up in the late afternoon/evening at a coffee shop.
  • I described above how I work as ‘flow.’  I attempt to set up my surroundings and well being to allow for complete immersion in a project.  I know when I am in ‘flow’ when I lose track of time, forget my fingers are moving on the keyboard and find myself singing at the top of my lungs from the most recent Pandora random song selection.
  • While in ‘flow’ I may go back and forth from my computer, to journal to white board and back to my computer.  My mind works in color-coding, to-do lists and dream boards.  I stay focused with movement and variety of visual/learning methods.
  • Whenever I find myself falling out of a state of flow, I find an article that will refuel me or breeze through twitter to see the latest news or student affairs chatter.  Sometimes even changing the song or where I am sitting will do the trick.
  • At the end of every day I write my to-do list for the next day, as well as ensure my schedule lines-up to meet those demands.  I write my number one priority at the very top, with other items falling under based upon priority.

What’s your workspace setup like? 

Honestly I can and sometimes have to work anywhere.  The last few months I have been on the road a ton, so I made the best of airplanes and hotels.  I actually found my best productive and flow moments on an airplane without wifi.  This last year has been the first time having a home office.  Recently I had to ‘reclaim’ the space, as it was set-up too much as a guest bedroom.  While we love our guests (and welcome more), going into my last year in my doctoral program I had to make this space more for me.

Now I am surrounded by the books I love, photos of inspiration and an open workspace that finally works.  You’ll also find a dog bed and toys on the ground, as my little guy tends to follow me wherever I happen to be in the house.  I also enjoy working at our kitchen table, as the lighting is great and the table is huge allowing me to completely spread out books, research journals and notebooks.  When I head out of the house, I tend to hit up Coffee Bean, Starbucks or Panera.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

Having access to evernote, kindle and google drive wherever I go is a serious timesaving shortcut.  I can be at the dog park or doctors office and pull up a paper I’m working on or get through another journal article.  I try to use even those ten minutes to good use.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

My headphones.  Whether out on a run or working at a coffee shop, these are a requirement.

What do you listen to while you work?

Sometimes I need to hear what I know and love, using my own itunes playlists.  Other times I use Pandora or Spotify to explore.  My go to’s depending on my mood, ranging anything from my girls like Ingride Michaelson and Norah Jones or club beats from Skrillex and Robyn.  There are also two YouTube-based artists I can’t get enough of Mike Tompkins & Lindsey Stirling.

What are you currently reading? 

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd.  This should have been finished months ago, but submitting and passing my dissertation proposal had to be priority one.  The love the book because it blends research with practicality and challenges perceptions of youths use of technology like social media and gaming.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I actually see myself as both.  While I do ‘test’ as an extrovert and see many of those personality tendencies in me, I cannot ignore other elements of introversion that are salient.  Recently I heard about a new classification called Ambivert where I ‘tested’ positive receiving equal parts extrovert and introvert.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I try to be wind down at least by midnight, up by 8am and if the day allows for it I have no problem cashing in on an opportunity for a nap.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

My 20-year-old self.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I love using quotes for inspiration and advice.  Here are my favorites:

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.”  -George Bendard Shaw

“Surround yourself with people that are going to lift you higher.”  -Oprah Winfrey

“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure.  Live bravely, excitedly and imaginatively” -Eleanor Roosevelt

How I Work – Josie Ahlquist

Adventures in Podcasting

By Valerie Heruska

I feel a little weird writing about podcasting, but I think that is something that I am just going to have to get over and move on with.

I’ve embarked on a new adventure: Podcasting. Blogging will always be near and dear to my heart, but podcasting allows for me to engage in another form where one can actually hear my voice and sassiness…. and my bad jokes, although I think they’re hilarious.

The idea came about to co-host a weekly podcast after some texts back and forth with a friend. We decided to call it “Professional Reputations Aside” because although we are both professionals in student affairs, we wanted to show case our thoughts on the field and other things that have nothing to do with student affairs. Basically, it’s a hodge podge of ridiculousness, but there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I think we have 5  dedicated listeners.

With that, if you ever decide you want to podcast, here’s a simple way of how to get started:

1. If you’re using a Mac Book Pro (or any Mac product), using Quicktime would be your best bet. All you need to do is to open a new audio recording and hit that big red button and you’re on your way to making media history.

2.  If you’re co-hosting… use headphones.

3. Check your audio input and output levels. If your input level is too low, you sound like you’re underwater. Same goes for your co-host or any special guest you have on your show.

4. Once you’re done, you want to export your recording into Mp4/Mp3 format.

5. Edit, Edit, Edit. You never know when you might have said something shady or inappropriate. I’m sure I have…and I’m sure my co-host did not edit them out. Macbooks come with some great editing tools. I have no clue about PCs (sorry folks)

6.  You’re going to need someone to host your podcast. If you have your own website where you can host, feel free to use that. If you don’t there are services that will host a podcast for you. I did a quick Google search and Libsyn seems to be the most popular.

7. Tell people you’re podcasting. I would love to hear what you have to say. In fact I prefer to listen to podcasts over music when I run.

If you have a podcast or any audio recording tips, please share them with us!

Adventures in Podcasting

How I Work – Kristen

With a hefty nod to the folks at Lifehacker.org for the idea and questions, we’ve decided to share a little bit about how the bloggers at SA Women Talk Tech work.

by Kristen Abell

Location: Kansas City, MO
Current Gig: Web developer for University of Missouri-Kansas City
One word that best describes how you work: efficient
Current mobile device: iPhone 5
Current computer:  Mac desktop at work, Macbook Air 11″ at home

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why? 

I am a Dreamweaver gal through and through – can’t live without it for my job. I also love Fetch for accessing files on our web servers and Firefox’s Firebug app for web development – if you are a web developer, you’re probably already using this. If you’re not but want to learn more about how to do it, this is a great app.

For my social media, I always have Tweetdeck open to keep an eye on Twitter through the filters I’ve set up – this should surprise no one that saw me do the Genius Lab on this tool at ACPA. I also use WordPress for blogging.

Also, I’m old school when it comes to lists – I’ve never been able to break away from a good ol’ pen and paper to-do list. I take it with me everywhere I go.

My workflow is like this: 

  • First thing each morning is answering emails. Once I get into my workflow, these fall off my radar, so I try to answer as many questions as I can before I get started.
  • Then I hit the to-do list and prioritize as needed. After checking my calendar for uninterrupted time, I generally plan to work on my bigger projects during larger chunks of time and fill in the smaller chunks of time with checking social media, answering emails or phone calls, or connecting with colleagues both on campus and beyond.

What’s your workspace setup like? 

I work in cube city, but because I like to feel at home when I’m working, my cube is probably the best decorated one – complete with Wonder Woman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer memorabilia. I’m also within sight of a window, which is a good thing for someone like me who enjoys their sunshine. I don’t have a standing desk – yet – but I’ve been considering it. They’re becoming fairly popular in our workspace.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

I don’t know that it’s time-saving, but it’s life-saving for me – I take a lunch break every day and get away from my desk. Whether I go out to lunch or just take my lunch hour to walk someplace else on campus, I have an hour each day that is just mine.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

My pad of paper – it gets me through meetings where phones aren’t allowed (yes, we still have those on our campus), and I’ve written many a letter with it – not to mention a doodle or 20.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret? 

What do you listen to while you work?

Depends on the day – today is a Pandora station focused on “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. Yesterday it was my Aimee Mann station. And somedays it’s my Cake station – I find this one to be best for days when I have to crank things out.

What are you currently reading? 

I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brené Brown – after seeing her at ACPA, I decided to give this book a shot since it’s been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. Also a book on writing – although that’s mostly been a few pages here and there in between other books. I also just finished The Virgin Suicides for about the fifth time – it’s always been a favorite of mine. Reading is kind-of my thing.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

What’s your sleep routine like?

I need a solid eight hours most nights, and I try to make sure I get that – so I’m in bed by 10 and up by 6. Except on nights when I’ve found a friend online to chat with or when I’m reading a good book.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Erik Qualman – or someone at Google. And then I’d like to send the answers to my boss.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Oooh – this is a hard one. I have a hard time taking care of myself over work, and I’ve had a friend or two tell me that if I’m not well, I’m not doing anyone else any favors. I’m still working on reminding myself of this one.

How I Work – Kristen

The Integration of Social Media in the Grief Process

by Niki Messmore

The memory is sharp and cuts like broken glass.

Garbed in black like Death’s reapers, they stood out in the sunny summer day. Their state trooper hats brushed against the door frame as they entered. Fear struck me, but it was not the quick strike of lightning but the smoldering of flames playing along the edges of dry wood. Either way, it burned.

My stomach clenched and my back stiffened. There was only one reason why state troopers would come to my door. There was only one member of my family not present in the house.

***

The jarring truth of life is that death is the only constant. Yet we do not speak of death often. Reports state that only around 30% Americans discuss death, making it a taboo topic, although 90% are interested in discussing the subject. So how do we deal with death when it is actually presented to us?

For an increasing number of people, it is social media.

Journalists and researchers are beginning to examine how people are using social media during the grief process, from the New York Times to Fast Company to Slate to a pleasant list of articles via Google Scholar. Social media is, at its core, about relationships in a digital age. For many (but not all), there is a strong desire to reach out to those they share a relationship with during grief, so the concept of ‘cyber grieving’ is not surprising.

I should know.

Last August my father was killed in a car collision – during the middle of residence life training and the beginning of my second year of grad school, as my luck would have it. He died on the way to the grocery store and thus there was no food in the house when we arrived. Like Buffy Summers in the episode ‘The Body’, it was my responsibility as the eldest to be strong, stable and make all arrangements. It wasn’t until I went grocery shopping that I broke down in front of the bagger, weeping and convulsing. All I could think about was the aftermath photos that the newspaper so callously published and trying to figure out what to do next.

I felt so utterly alone. Hallowed out like a jack ‘o’ lantern, with a grim, insincere smile frozen on my face.

So I reached out to people I cared about, and who cared about me, on social media. First for a request for prayers and then, after all notifications had been made by phone, with a statement about what occurred. The response was more than I could have asked. Wall posts, private messages…they gave me the strength of ten vampire slayers. Yet there were invasions of privacy that were upsetting – such as a one-time college acquaintance demanding I say how I was doing through a Facebook comment and getting angry when I ignored his request (he was promptly deleted).

Is cyber grieving an appropriate or beneficial part of the grief process?

As student affairs practitioners, we must learn to talk about grief more so we can better support our students and colleagues. With the trend going towards expressing grief through social media, it is important that we learn how this can help or harm the process.

Some Benefits of Cyber Grieving
1. Provides instant support– even just ‘liking’ a status gives the grieving person the knowledge that they are not alone
2. Accesses a large support network – provides opportunities for people to reconnect and gain support, from current friends to old friends to coworkers, etc
3. Allows for expression of emotion – society doesn’t provide spaces for people to openly grieve and release emotion; social media allows people to create their own spaces
4. Provides an opportunity to connect with others who are grieving as well – whether it is memorial Facebook pages or writing on the deceased’s wall, social media allows people from different areas of someone’s life come together to grieve

Areas of Concern Regarding Cyber Grieving
1.  Can be triggering – since everyone grieves differently, one person posting statuses about a person can trigger emotions in others.
2. It may be offensive to others who are grieving – what happens when one family member wants to share thoughts about the deceased yet another family member believes that should be private?
3. All information is public – everything lasts forever on the internet, and social media begs the act of over-sharing
4. Ethics – the impulse to share is strong, especially as human life becomes more intertwined with using social media. What happens when information gets shared too soon, and people close to the deceased find out first through a Facebook status or tweet?

It’s important that we provide spaces and resources on campuses for students who are going through the grief process (which can be in regards to many types of life events; i.e. not just death, and take many forms). As technology continues to grow as a tool of human communication, we have to continuously consider how cyber grieving can play a part in the grief process for our students and colleagues.

I’d love to open further dialogue on this topic of grief in general and am considering a blog series. What are your thoughts? Do you think cyber grieving is helpful or harmful to the grief process? How can student affairs be better prepared to help support those grieving? Please consider sharing below in the comments or tweet me at @NikiMessmore.

Many thanks to those who responded to my Facebook status and shared (publicly and privately) about their own experiences with grief in the social media age.

***

For further thoughts from a student affairs perspective, I suggest reading over all links in this article and this following presentation:
Kocet, M.M., Hale, C., Burne, Quinn, P.M., & Sarahs, J. (2013, March). Cyber grieving social media in addressing grief and loss, and inspiring well-being in students. Presented at the ACPA Annual Convention. Powerpoint retrieved from  http://www.slideshare.net/pquinn56/cyber-grieving-in-college

The Integration of Social Media in the Grief Process

Highlight An App: Office for iPad

By Brenda Bethman

If you follow tech news at all, you likely know that in late March Microsoft (finally!) released a version of Office for the iPad — and also made the iPhone version free. The iPad apps (Word, Excel, and Power Point) are also free, as are versions of OneNote for the Mac and iOS.

Well, technically free. With the free versions of the iPad apps, you can view and read files, but not edit them. Editing requires an Office 365 subscription, the cost of which varies depending on the type of plan purchased. For folks working in higher education, it’s not a bad deal. If you don’t already have a subscription through your university (which many do), you can purchase Office 365 University. The cost is $79.99 for 4 years, and includes 2 installations of Office on Macs or PCs, access to the tablet apps, 20GB of storage on OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and 60 Skype minutes per month.

Even if you don’t buy the subscription, I recommend downloading the apps for anyone who works with a lot of Office documents and uses their iPad in meetings. Unlike former solutions where formatting would be a hot mess, these apps preserve the formatting, meaning your documents look basically the same on your iPad (first photo below) as on your laptop (second photo below):

Word document on iPad

 

Word document on Mac laptop

While Microsoft obviously couldn’t include all the functionality of the computer apps, the important things are there, including document review and the ability to add/read comments. If you use and love (or even like) Office a lot and want to be able to work on Office documents on your iPad, you will love these apps.

What you will not love — the price (especially if you don’t qualify for a University subscription), the inability to print (which Microsoft says is coming), the lack of cloud options other than Microsoft’s OneDrive (no saving to Dropbox or iCloud), and the inability to work offline. Nonetheless, these are solid, well-built apps, and a vast improvement over previous options for the iPad.

 

Highlight An App: Office for iPad